Some students need to take the road less traveled.
For University of Michigan-Dearborn anthropology students, that often means leaving the classroom behind to join field research experts as they embark on expeditions of discovery throughout the world.
Beth Beson (’07 B.G.S.) first learned about a new anthropology field study program in 2005, when she enrolled in a UM-Dearborn anthropology course. The idea of the program immediately hooked her—especially the kind of academically rigorous, intellectually rewarding and physically demanding endeavor that asks its participants to dig deeper.
“They get to go on an adventure to explore and study a different world,” said Beson, president of Conrad Charitable Foundation, “and come back having experienced something empowering and life-changing.”
Beson’s home life kept her from applying for the program—she attended UM-Dearborn as a returning student when the youngest of her three children was still living at home—but she knew she wanted to help others participate. She started a field school scholarship that year and helped fund two students’ adventures. (Beson also supports UM-Dearborn athletics through the William “Rudy” Radulovich Award—named after her uncle, who was the university’s first intramural sports director.)
And she has been involved with the program ever since, endowing the Beth A. Beson Anthropology Field Study Scholarship Fund to provide scholarships for the experience. In the last decade, 45 UM-Dearborn students have traveled to various field schools worldwide—throughout the U.S. and to countries including Australia, Belize, Malta, Jordan, Peru and Tanzania—to gain hands-on experience in anthropological techniques.
Chelcee Aitchison scuba dives during her anthropology field study at the Isla Mujeres Ethnographic Field School.
Chelcee Aitchison (’15 B.A.) was one of those students. Aitchison spent six weeks in the summer of 2014 at the Isla Mujeres Ethnographic Field School in Mexico, where she enlarged her understanding of field methodology and ethnographic research.
“I embarked on the most transformative, enlightening and influential experience of my life thus far,” she said. “In addition to providing me with a metamorphic, soul-searching opportunity, this opportunity truly solidified my interest in cultural anthropology.”
Aitchison and other program participants share their stories during the program’s annual capstone presentations, which this past winter also included a celebration of the program’s 10th anniversary. Beson said hearing their stories inspires her to continue to support the program into its second decade.
“What I love most is that I’m able to provide an opportunity for someone to learn new things about their field, explore cultures vastly different than their own and deepen their understanding of themselves,” said Beson.
Beson made her first gift to the university as a student to a scholarship for returning women with families. Beson thinks back to that moment in the classroom when she opted not to apply for the anthropology field studies program, and finds great value in assisting others with continuing their education.
“It makes me very proud to provide this unique experience to so many, whose passions have been fostered by the anthropology field school scholarships.”